Daily Archives: February 18, 2008

Shampoo is better! I go on first and clean the hair! Conditioner is better! I make the hair silky and smooth!

12. Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

This might be the only film on the list that gets referenced directly(or indirectly) by “Naked Gun 33 1/3“. Please compare to two videos below:

[youtube http://youtube.com/watch?v=BaGLZEdYDGU%5D

I think the “Naked Gun 33 1/3” version is better personally but you be the judge. While the “Potemkin” version marks a powerful use of montage, and alludes to the oppressive regimes of both Czarist and Communist Russia, I believe the Naked Gun version to present a microcosm of modern American society in under 2 minutes.

Firstly you have the police presented as being overwhelmed by the problems of modern society. Whether it be general public safety(represented by the babies), whether it be homeland security(the president and/or the terrorist), or simply organized crime(the mobsters), the police are shown to be an ineffective in the face of increasingly diverse problems.

Secondly you have the war on terror being depicted in graphic detail. A suicide bomber is gunned down, which gives the audience some comfort, but think how close he got to the president and the pope. The filmmakers clearly recognized that danger was near, and next time we might not be so lucky.

Thirdly you have the disgruntled postal workers who can be seen to represent the middle and lower classes (and perhaps their economic struggles). As the comfort of middle class life erodes, and as people become increasingly alienated from their surroundings and from the American dream they are shown to react violently as a means of lashing out at the perceived injustices they have suffered. The recent wave of random shootings can be seen as evidence of this.

Fourthly you have O.J. Simpson as both a representative of racial turmoil and the failing legal system. One might even argue he is also a symbol of the silent epidemic of domestic violence. All this and we haven’t even touched on the Mexican migrant worker or the Pope.

So in the span of 2 minutes we have seen astute commentary about the police, public safety, homeland security, the war on terror, illegal immigration, race relations, domestic abuse, the Catholic church, the economy, the justice system and class warfare. Beat that Potemkin!

On filmaffinity.com I gave the film a 7/10, primarily because the ‘Odessa Steps’ sequence from which the “baby carriage” scene is taken is as powerful as anything ever put to film. The rest of the movie isn’t very good mainly because it’s slow and the acting is pretty over the top. But the Odessa steps sequence is highly recommended. As a treat to the several Arcade Fire fans who read this blog(you know who you are), here is the film in abbreviated music video form:

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It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Hurrancarana to Cry.

11. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)

There is so much I want to write about this film. I could write about how I really like musicals, how I think Gene Kelly is pimp, how this was another movie I watched in film class at Mount Royal, or how I love movies about making movies. I could write about how this movie depicts the struggles some silent stars faced in transitioning to sound, and then I could write about silent star “Marie Prevost“, drank herself to death in 1937, and was found dead in her apartment with dog bites all over her. Then I could drop a Nick Lowe reference from his song Mary Provost: “she was a winner who became the doggie’s dinner”. But instead I will narrow my focus to the ridiculously awesome “Make ‘Em Laugh” sequence starring Donald O’Connor.

The whole sequence has an anarchic quality, where rules of physical movement are ignored, and the effect is for me pretty mind blowing. Just to sound pretentious, I will call it “audacity of movement”, basically meaning the O’Connor in this sequence is audacious enough to try physical things that seem impossible, and yet he does them beautifully. From flipping off walls to being tossed around by a dummy, anything seems possible. Hell, he even does this, I didn’t even know it was possible. The only thing I can compare it to is watching Rey Mysterio Jr. wrestle, and just being in awe of what is happening. The amazing thing isn’t simply that a man can move like that, but rather that a man can even think up moving like that. It’s the kind of thing that can bring tears to my eyes, just the sheer imagination of it.

The rest of the film has a ton great sequences and great music, but nothing really tops the “Make Em Laugh” sequence. The greatness of the film is that the sequences are equally matched by a great screenplay which is both enjoyable but also pretty interesting from a historical perspective. Just seeing a little bit about how films were made in 1927(even if it’s not meant to be accurate) is for me pretty thrilling. This film combine history, music and mayhem into a tight 100 minute package.

On filmaffinity.com I gave this film 9/10, but it’s a really strong 9 which could easily be a 10 with some more thought. I recommend the shit out this film.

Here she comes, you better watch your step.

10. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)

For those who don’t know, Murnau is the same guy who directed “Nosferatu“. This was one of two films to win best picture at the first ever Oscars(technically it won for “Best Unique and Artistic Production, while the lesser “Wings” won for “Best Picture”).

The premise for the movie is simple: small-town husband wants to leave his wife and run off with a big-city woman. They conspire to kill the wife, but the husband gets cold feet after spending an eventful night in the city with his wife. He realizes he loves her and all is well.

It should be stated that I am a sucker for an evil woman. In this film the big city woman(played by Margaret Livingston, pretty decent by 1920’s standards) is the one who wants him to kill his wife. What I as a viewer am supposed to find abhorrent, somehow becomes attractive. I think it is connected to both my status as a “good-natured doormat“, and the fact that I like strong women. Something about submission and degradation has always interested me, and I guess evil women and femme fatales as they appear in film and other media allows me to explore that without having to do something I might regret.

On filmaffinity.com I rated the film a 9/10, because it’s an engaging melodrama, which is beautifully shot, and technically very innovative. Films shot in 1927 aren’t supposed to look this good.